Corrupt prosecutors

It seems to be a fad lately for criminal prosecutors to help put innocent people in jail, then go on with their lives for years, and eventually get promoted, and then FINALLY come clean and admit that they suppressed exculpatory evidence against criminal defendants. At least, that is what happened with the recent Margo Freshwater case in Tennessee (murder conviction overturned after 42 years), and now also in this Hannah Overton case from Texas.

In the Hannah Overton case, apparently Texas convicted a woman of murder in 2007 because the government claimed that she forced her adopted son to eat salt until he died. Seriously. Even on its face, that conviction sounds at least slightly ridiculous. But now it actually turns out that the prosecutors had a medical report showing that the level of salt in the kid’s stomach was LOW, not high.

Now, the assistant prosecutor has come clean and at least tried to appear as if she is repenting of her wickedness:

“I am writing this letter because I do believe that an injustice has been done. I do not believe there was sufficient evidence to indicate that Hannah Overton intentionally killed Andrew Burd,” Jimenez wrote in February.

But why doesn’t she try saying things a bit more accurately: “I am writing this letter because I HAVE HELPED CAUSE an injustice.” These people never seem to experience much shame for their misdeeds. They just pass the buck. Then we find out later that even though this lady has herself been promoted to District Attorney — that is, the person who is the BOSS of the prosecutors’ office — she is still allowing one of her underlings to RESIST letting the defendant have a new trial! The woman is so ridiculously two-faced. Or in this case, maybe you should call it “three-faced” since she keeps flip-flopping all over the place.

“It is because I witnessed Sandra Eastwood’s behavior before, during and after trial that I fear she may have purposely withheld evidence that may have been favorable to Hannah Overton’s defense,” she added.

So she seemingly admits that she saw questionable acts years ago and did nothing.

Doug Norman, the assistant Nueces County district attorney handling Overton’s appellate matters for the state, said Tuesday he does not see anything that qualifies as “a smoking gun” in Orr’s latest pleading, including the low stomach salt contents.

It doesn’t have to be a “smoking gun” to equal an unconstitutional Brady violation. Idiot. Try actually studying some law before you open your mouth.

“I may harbor doubts, but a jury heard this case and made a decision, and everyone has to respect that decision,” he said in a Tuesday interview.

Yes, we should all respect jury decisions based on an incomplete/false picture presented by dishonest prosecutors suppressing evidence. I know that I personally can barely contain my “respect.”

“I’ll put it this way. My job requires me to be an advocate for the state. As long as I can make a nonfrivolous argument, I’ll make it, but nothing in my job prevents me from praying for a more just outcome,” he said.

See, this is the type of garbage we have today. For whatever reason, some people actually imagine that being an “advocate for the state” just means keeping the maximum number of people in jail. You think the government is your friend? Well according to this government worker, his job is not to do the right thing, but rather to put you in jail. And he will make every effort to put you in jail as long as he can make a non-“frivolous” argument. The standard isn’t supposed to be whether an argument is non-“frivolous” but whether the government can prove the argument by the requisite standard of proof.  And yet this guy just admitted that he has made a career out of pursuing every single non-“frivolous” action he possibly can “on behalf of the State,” which is just code for “on behalf of the jail.”  If I were on the Texas Board of Professional Responsibility, I’d be tempted to suspend this guy’s law license for just making such a ridiculous and corrupt statement.

And he also essentially admits that in this particular case, he does not even have enough evidence to convince himself that the woman is guilty. And this is a guy who, practically speaking, is paid to be convinced of guilt.

And despite all this nonsense, people still call criminal defense lawyers slimy. A criminal defense lawyer is required by law to support a specific individual who is given by law a right to a trial. (That is, without a defense lawyer you CANNOT go forward.) And even if the client is guilty of something, the lawyer does not have much choice in the matter but must simply support the client. By contrast, these criminal prosecutors aren’t required by law to do ANYTHING, except to honestly pursue justice. And they apparently can’t even pull that off.

I think these prosecutors act the way they do — and then sometimes later come forward and act publicly like heroes for setting the record right — because they have almost absolute immunity. In my mind, intentionally suppressing this type of stuff is not much different from perjury. And granted, it’s usually hard to prove intent with this sort of thing.

And granted, even actual perjury by prosecution witnesses is almost never punished. But if you want my view on how we should start handling all this type of nonsense, here it is:

Deuteronomy 19:16-21
If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

We just don’t take the right things seriously enough today.


12 Responses to “Corrupt prosecutors”

  1. 1 Retired Cop June 7, 2011 at 11:37 pm

    Drew correct me if I’m wrong. Since the prosecution had, as you said, evidence before the trial and didn’t give it up during discovery then wouldn’t that automatically guarantee the defendant a new trial?

  2. 2 Drew June 8, 2011 at 12:13 am

    From what I can tell at least from reading the news story, the whole thing sounds like a clear and obvious case for a new trial. That’s why I think that Assistant DA makes himself look foolish, pretending that he has moral duty to oppose an obviously rightful appeal. If it were me doing the appeal, I bet I could probably have the lady out within months.

    But sometimes there can be a factual dispute about whether the prosecutor did actually turn over the evidence. (Then you normally have to call in the defense lawyer and look through his file, and ask him if he might’ve lost anything that was turned over.) And then aside from that usually dispute, these are sometimes some procedural hurdles to jump over in terms of statutes of limitations for post-conviction appeals. Once you find a good argument around any of those hurdles, you ultimately just have to show that the new evidence “undermines confidence in the veridict,” or that there’s a “reasonable probability” that the new evidence would have resulted in a different verdict if shown at trial. The report about salt in the kid’s stomach certainly seems to offer a reasonable probability to me.

    I guess there could be difficulty something to the case which the news story is failing to report. But based on that Assistant DA’s statements, he seems to be basically conceding the rightfulness of the case, at least in his own mind.

  3. 3 Glenn E. Chatfield June 8, 2011 at 10:06 am

    I read about this case a while back. I have found over the years that people in the the “family services” units very often bypass the really bad parents and go after minor stuff as if they were acts of terrorism. I have too many friends needing HELP with protecting children against real danger, and too many friends who have had their lives thrown upside down because some nosy neighbor made an anonymous complaint. I don’t know how to fix it except to hire more intelligent people with better common sense.

  4. 4 Ilíon June 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    And yet, don’t you see it as your job abd duty to do the same unjust thing, but from the other direction?

    Can you not undestand why normal people despise lawyers?

  5. 5 Drew June 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Legally, it isn’t considered “unjust” to let a guilty person free if there is actually insufficient evidence to convict him. We don’t punish all guilty people; we only punish people that we are sure are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The only way to tell if there is reasonable doubt is to have a trial. This is sort of basic stuff. Do normal people despise the Constitution, too?

    And practically speaking, the defense lawyer often doesn’t even really know whether the defendant is guilty.

  6. 6 Ilíon June 11, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    You’re not stupid … even if you sometimes act it. You know very well that I’m not talking about forcing the prosecutor to prove his case. I refer you to your own words.

    Do normal people despise the Constitution, too?

    Obviously, else looking into the “birther” thingie wouldn’t be so studiously avoided by nearly everyone.

  7. 7 Drew June 11, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    If you’re just referring to the exclusionary rule, I still think it’s a pretty good concept, or at least unless and until you can come up with a better solution.

  8. 8 whoa June 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Drew! We don’t have the exclusionary rule in Tennessee anymore- at least not in totality- we just legislatively created a good faith exception.

  9. 9 Drew June 17, 2011 at 12:06 am

    You can’t legislate away the exclusionary rule. It’s established by the courts, and arguably required by the Constitution.

    I don’t think the bill you’re referring to even attempts to do much of anything. It’s basically just legislative grandstanding. (

  10. 10 Harry September 13, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Personally, I think that they have a very challenging job and they must make decisions on the spot, so I think you are a giving the assistant prosecutor a bit to much of a grilling. If you were in there position, and you saw someone write what you wrote, how would you feel???

  11. 11 anonymous October 31, 2013 at 7:05 am

    > Do normal people despise the Constitution, too?

    If the Bill of Rights were put to a popular vote today, I would not bet on it passing.

    PS – discovered your blog today after reading this


    Nice work, Captain.

  12. 12 Horatio Bunce February 20, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    You should look into the Memphis police evidence fabrication, murder and thin-blue-line coverup of Jeffrey Robinson in 2002. Guess which DA was on the job back then and couldn’t find anything wrong with the police actions?

    VIPR-checkpoint leading “say something if you see something” Bill Gibbons.

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